Tag Archives: tuk-tuk

Take the Lilongwe Home

Malawians have a wonderful saying regarding their capital city; you can live life the right way, you can live life the wrong way, or you can live life Lilongwe. I don’t know what it’s supposed to mean, but it rhymes, so I guess it’s kind of beautiful and poignant.

The ride there from Zomba was a nightmare and took around 11 hours, crammed into a bunch of different buses with squealing babies and assorted farm animals. I was stoked to find climb aboard a fairly new-looking coach in Blantyre for the second half of the trip, but then it sat by the side of the road for more than two hours until it was overcrowded enough to leave. Are the Malawians getting public transport advice from the NSW government or something?

Lilongwe is an unusual city. There’s no real city centre, with the 700,003 inhabitants sprawled across a massive area. Parts of it feel more like India or southeast Asia than Africa, with tuk-tuks running everywhere and curries bubbling away. Like most African cities, there aren’t a lot of tourist attractions, but dodging the countless gaping holes in the footpath is an interesting way to pass the day.

There are also heaps of signs for witch doctors, offering to do everything from bringing back lost lovers to finding dogs. Most of the signs are about penis enlargement, so I stopped by one of the witch doctors to see what he could do to make my doodle bigger. I was slightly disappointed when all he did was hand me a copy of Penthouse and point me towards the nearest toilet, but it definitely worked for a few minutes.

I’m writing this at the airport, waiting to fly out to Tanzania, and I’m genuinely sad to be leaving Malawi. This country is stunning, frustrating, exotic, backwards, cultured and wild, and the people unbelievably kind and friendly. It’s been a huge week with brilliant new friends and challenging experiences. I feel changed for having been here and reluctant to leave, knowing that I probably will never be back.

I’ve spent time with interesting people who are walking completely different paths to my own, and it was a privilege to walk beside them for a moment or two. Meeting cool and inspiring people is the best thing about travelling, but constantly saying adios to them is probably the worst. Ah, I’m getting sentimental. Or maybe it’s just the bilharzia talking.

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Jewel of the Nilaveli

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Uppuveli has a great beachTrinco city has a crap one, so I figured it’s time I checked out the other major beach on the northeastern coast of Sri Lanka. Nilaveli is about 10km north of where I’ve been staying, and has a completely different feel. Not as many tourists, a lot more locals, and barbed wire and military watch towers all over the place to give it that ‘tropical paradise’ feel.

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You have to watch out for sunburn, jellyfish stings, and tetanus

Jokes aside, it is a great spot, with palm trees and clear blue water. There aren’t as many restaurants or hotels as in Uppuveli and it’s a long stretch of sand, which means it’s easy to get away from everything and just let the day seep away under a tree. Of course, that brings with it the danger of having a herd of cows wander over and shit on your head, but that sort of thing is par for the course in Asia.

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Hottest motherfucker on the beach

Nilaveli is where Sri Lankans like to go for a dip, and the water around the main section of beach is teeming with the happy little bastards. They like to pack in tight, climb on each other’s shoulders, kiss each other, and generally act in baffling ways that confused and intrigued me. They were obviously curious about me, too, because I was stopped a few times to have my photo taken with groups of near-naked black men – usually holding their hands. I’d post a photo of it but 1) I thought better of handing my camera over to a bunch of strangers in a third world country and 2) anyone who saw it would probably assume I had, at some point, participated in a beach-themed interracial gangbang, which isn’t the case at all. I swear.

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The locals have fantastic tans

There’s a clutch of shops in the centre of the beach that sell everything from curry wraps to glass flowers (my favourite!), and, while small, it’s typically busy. Tuk-tuks and buses fang up and down the dusty road, while cows and dogs dick around, getting in the way and wasting everyone’s time. It’s aimed at the locals, not tourists, so unless you’re really after some cheap plastic toys of a snappy button-up shirt, there’s not much to buy. I was trying to find a signed and framed 1989 Canberra Raiders jersey, for instance, but had no luck and had to settle for one from 1990. I was crushed.

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“Gimme a red soccer ball and some cow shit, bro”

Tired from a long day of sitting on the beach and dancing with cows, I climbed into a tuk-tuk and pointed the little bloke in the front seat in the right direction. We rattled and rolled off down a track, my new friend singing Taylor Swift songs at the top of his lungs and wobbling his little head from side to side. Unfortunately the rock ‘n’ roll express came to a crashing halt when one of the wheels fell off the tuk-tuk, spinning off into a field and startling a cow. Taylor smashed the tuk-tuk into a fence and it almost flipped, which surely would have killed me.

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The moment of impact

We climbed out and Taylor was in tears, probably more for his damaged tuk-tuk than for the fact he almost murdered me. I cuddled him and told him everything would be alright, and he blew his nose loudly on my singlet. He finally settled down enough to pull out his phone and, not wanting to hike through the middle of nowhere, I just hung out, listening to music and dancing with a small group of goats. After a short time, another Sri Lankan dude rocked up in a tuk-tuk, tied Taylor’s to the back of it with some rope, then we all climbed into his ride and crawled out of there.

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Inviting your mates around for a ‘barbie’ means something different in Nilaveli

We ended up in a little hut surrounded by dogs, where Taylor explained to his family that I was a hero, having been there for him when he was at his lowest point. Or something like that, his English was shithouse. They served me a delicious meal of rice and curry, during which Taylor’s children performed a traditional boogie for me, and then I was taken home in the working tuk-tuk and dumped. It wa an unusual experience.

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“Hello sir! Where you from? Where you going?”

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I had a few too many bottles of Lion beer last night, so when I woke up this morning I was both hungover and very confused. I thought I was still in Europe, and stumbled outside to grab myself something delicious from a bakery. I didn’t take long for my confusion to subside.
“Hello sir! Where you from? Where you going?” yelled a fat bloke in a tuk-tuk, and I brushed him off and kept walking down the street, already soaking in sweat as I did my best to avoid the open holes that litter the roads of Negombo.

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You can never find a bloody tuk-tuk when you want one!

“Hey bro! You want tuk-tuk?” came another voice, this time from a shirtless dude.
“You go to city? I take you!” squeeled an old man with one arm.
“You handsome! I take you in tuk-tuk for special priced!” minced a middle-aged fella dressed in the full outfit of the Sri Lankan national cricket team.
“Sir! I’m going to Colombo! You want ride with me?” asked a young bloke who wibble-wobbled his head so much I thought it was going to fall off.
“I take you to airport tomorrow!” sang some dunce wearing a paper hat.

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Real men wear skirts

Negombo isn’t a hectic place, but it can be tiring. Right now I’m one of about six tourists in the whole place on account of it being monsoon season, so every tout and shop owner sees me coming. They all want to drive me somewhere or sell me some crap nicknack made out of wood and faeces, which can make a simple stroll down the street a more difficult task than it has any right to be. Yes, this place is exotic and charming, but it’s also tough, with every motherfucker I meet wanting to get money out of me.

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“Hello sir! Want a boat ride?”

Even my hotel isn’t a palace of solitude. The good who runs it, Rowan, waits at the front desk for me to come in and out of room, so he can try to sell me something. This morning he was trying to sell me a lobster dinner for $35 (I’d expect a blowjob for dessert for that price) and this afternoon he was trying to book me into another place he owns in the mountains. It doesn’t have water or electricity, it’s 15kn out of town, the only way to get there is by paying him to drive me there, and it has what he calls a ‘nature toilet’ but looks more like a tree – he even showed me a photo of a young lady using the ‘nature toilet’, and it didn’t appear that she was happy about the photo being taken. Sorry, Rowan, but you can shove your hut up your blurter.

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I don’t like the chances of the new Sri Lankan F1 team

There’s not much to do in Negombo other than ignoring tuk-tuk drivers, so tomorrow I’m going to head off to Kandy for a few days, before spending a fortnight or so on the beaches of Sri Lanka’s east coast. They should bring better weather with them, but they’re also apparently poorer and less-developed than where I’m currently at – so I might end up shitting on a tree after all. If I do, there’ll be photos. As for now, I’m going to close my eyes and dream that I’m back in Europe again, with the European food, the efficient European transportation, and the big-titted European women…

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